My favorite piece of sci-fi is this:
Its a letter written by Leó Szilárd and signed by Albert Einstein, to United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, on August 2, 1939. It is the potential of what sci-fi could be: Practical advice, understanding, about what to do in the here and now to make a better future for the people alive right now. In this case advice on how to avoid a future where the Germans beat the Americans to a bomb that can wipe out entire ports all by itself. This one piece of science fiction provides insight into the implications of scientific discoveries that had yet to trickle down into the public consciousness. So that the reader could make sound decisions with practical benefit for the future.
What is my least favorite science fiction?
Every sci-fi author in the world right now always has a chapter in his/her book that says “We will make humans live longer with science“. But then they never bother to read up on the science, so they don’t actually mention any of the science. Nor the implications of said science. So no advice comes of the science.
The wealthy man who reads this chapter on longevity will not give money to anyone in the science in question. Why bother? It will eventually happen not in his lifetime, all by itself.
The nation leader who reads this chapter on longevity will not give any orders or make any laws that allow this industry to establish itself. Why bother? It will eventually happen not in his lifetime, all by itself.
The man in the street does not even save up a few pennies in case he needs a treatment before it becomes so cheaper to make people young than to give them a pension payment. Why bother? Such treatments will eventually happen not in his lifetime, and be given out freely to all those who never contributed to the research (in reality the state will take your pension plan and use it to pay to make you a young healthy adult again, then send you back to work, but only treatments that are cheap enough will be included, and you may need some before that happens).
A budding scientist does not know that this new field is a possible option. Why even bother checking if it is? Such a thing as reversing aging and making a bomb that wipes out an entire port, is obviously not going to happen in his/her lifetime.
And because the chapter in these sci-fi books that mention longevity don’t actually contain information, the result is that the entire book is just science fantasy that serves no purpose other than to be escapism for the reader (and to some extent escapism for the author). Because everything written in every piece of science fiction, will happen “not in my lifetime” of anyone who reads it.
But who cares? Making people younger is obviously impossible, just like those impossible individual bombs that wipe out entire ports. Obviously. Even today about 2/3 of a century after the atom bomb, the layman still doesn’t really understand how the latter is possible, we just take it for granted as truth because it happened.
And that is where I disagree with every other sci-fi content creator in the known universe. If they don’t understand aging to such an extent that they know some portion of those alive today will make it to longevity escape velocity, then they’re useless. Because everything they write will be written as if people won’t live to see it, and then people won’t behave in such a way that they actually WILL live to see it. If sci-fi authors don’t write as if rejuvenation will happen, there’s a good chance it won’t. At least it will be delayed by many decades compared to what would happen if we collectively lit a fire under the behind of anyone who could do something to help the research directly or indirectly.
Can you imagine if Einstein signed a letter that resulted in no actual action from the president? Can you imagine the potential catastrophe that could have happened if the letter was written as if the atom bomb was never going to happen in the lifetime of those who were alive at that time? The funding atomic research received at the time meant no one in their right mind would seriously think anyone would achieve an atomic bomb in world war 2. Maybe not even in the next 100 years after 1939.
But do you know how much money the Manhattan project cost? About 23 billion in 2018 dollars. But if you take a look at the trickle of money into atomic research before the Manhattan project, before the letter and others like it, it would have taken over a century to reach 23 billion dollars in atomic research. So if the president and the rest of the people at the top believed Einstein was off his tits and that atomic bombs would never happen, then the funding to make it happen would never have happened. Not on the American side anyway.
That is why it is dangerous for science fiction authors to not understand the cause of 2/3 of all deaths worldwide, namely aging. Because if these authors treat aging like we will never develop a way to intervene in aging in the lifetime of people alive today, then it will probably be delayed by decades if not more. But who cares about people alive today or even tomorrow? This is all just some fiction we the authors write for fun, for escapism, to dream ourselves away into a wonderful world instead of making a wonderful world. Much easier to just dream of one, it saves calories.
They should call low effort science fiction that makes zero attempt at being useful, for science fantasy. And then there will be a tiny portion of books left in the science fiction genre that attempt to offer insight that will be of practical to use to people that are alive today (And yes, my book will hopefully be one of them). These science fiction books will be for these types of people:
People who want to be the first investors in an industry that will be worth 2/3 of todays global healthcare costs (and 2/3 of todays pension costs), because that’s what you will be able to charge the world’s nations for rejuvenation treatments that keep the population as young and fit as 25 year old men and women. And the world’s nations will gladly pay that price because the old people will be young healthy people that can keep working.
Leaders that want their nation to have the biggest piece of this industry pie that will make the entire oil industry pie look like a medium income industry by comparison.
Students that want to do something important with lasting consequences for their lives and the lives of others.
Individuals who do not want to see their friends and family gradually go through four decades of declining health until they eventually have it so bad that they welcome death.
Individuals who don’t want to subscribe to the reproduction-theory of meaningful existence (this theory states that the only meaning you can get out of existence is to leave something behind when you die. Even though you are lucky enough to live in the precise moment in time when it is within reason to use those six adult decades you have available to do something to avoid dying altogether).
Individuals who don’t want to find themselves in the future wanting to live just a little bit longer, or wanting a little better health, but being unable to take treatments that offer these things because they never helped the research happen quickly enough. And then knowing they could have done something many decades earlier that would’ve given them this option. Namely helping a budding scientific field establish itself as a serious budget post on national research budgets.
Do you know how many atomic bombs would have had to be dropped every year to match the deaths by the seven aging processes if each bomb killed as many as it did in Hiroshima? About 350 bombs. 350 atomic bombs every single year, then you can adjust for population back to 1939 if you want. Every day we waste is one nuclear bomb worth of people who finally died after four decades of declining health and ability. And we are in the precise moment in technological development where it is feasible to change this.
Do you know what sum of money we spend on rejuvenation biotechnology, aka the field of intervening in the aging processes? Less than half of one percent of what we spend on anti-aging skin cremes that had to be proven to the FDA that they do absolutely nothing before they could be legally sold. You couldn’t even buy office supplies for the Manhattan Project with the total budget of rejuvenation biotechnology (not counting stem cell research which is technically also rejuvenation, but the only well funded piece of rejuvenation biotechnology).
If every sci-fi author continues to write as if rejuvenation biotechnology will not happen in the lifetime of the readers, then there’s a good chance it will be true. If however every sci-fi author starts to write as if rejuvenation biotechnology will happen in the lifetime of the readers, then there’s a good chance that will be true.
I do not want to see one more sci-fi computer game where advanced civilizations die from cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia and so forth. These things are caused by the aging processes that they will have mastered long before faster than light travel.
I do not want to see one more sci-fi TV show where characters cross galaxies but can’t outlive a tortoise.
I do not want to see one more sci-fi movie where Asgardian Gods randomly die of aging (Thor: Ragnarok, I’m looking at you).
I do not want to see one more sci-fi book where the author clearly has zero knowledge about the seven aging processes. You sound like broken records that talk about how everything functions, from stars to advanced non-existent technologies. But then there always seems to be a record-player brrrrt sound where you skip the portion where an explanation of aging and its interventions would be. And because of it I have not seen anything new in science fiction in a decade. The authors I liked ten years ago put out copies of their previous work and call it a new book.
As an example, one of my favorite sci-fi authors is Michio Kaku. I really like his earlier books, but then his latest one, which even has a chapter touching on longevity, but there is no actual content there. And all the other chapters remain completely unaffected by the longevity bit. Yet, the idea that people will live a very long time changes everything about all the other chapters. It changes the type of projects people will actually decide to do, it changes what order people will do them in, it changes who and how projects are funded, it changes why projects are done and it changes how people travel between solar systems. Faster than light travel becomes an expensive luxury that no sane person will bother to spring for when they have all the time in the world to go slower and then be able to set sail sooner, as it were, because they spent less time building an interstellar spaceship when it no longer needs to travel faster than light. Longevity changes everything about a science fiction book if you just think about it for a moment with proper understanding of the aging processes.
Its difficult to explain how this understanding of aging changes everything. But lets do this thought-experiment: Even after the attack on Pearl Harbor, many admirals and ships captains still thought the battleship was the capital ship of choice. But that was because they did not understand the simple calculation of energy that you can do if you calculate the energy of a 500 kilogram bomb being dropped from several thousand meters altitude at the top of a ship. When you understand this simple calculation, you know big gun ships are history against the airplane. There’s just nothing that floats that can stop that sort of energy which the equation spits out. And some people who understood this formula, probably knew for decades that the battleship was a complete waste of money and that they should put all that money into airplane development and aircraft carriers instead.
In terms of aging, the perspective of time, indefinite lifespans in good youthful health, as long as you keep taking your treatments and researchers keep improving on these treatments, this understanding brings heaps of conclusions that remain hidden otherwise. Understanding that will make companies hire longevity philosophers in order to make decisions with this longevity in mind. Understanding that will make nations implement plans and strategies that over centuries will result in outcompeting another nation in a certain industry. Understanding that will make nations open up their borders for immigration (while ignorant nations shuns immigration). Understanding that will make companies and investors pay top dollar to secure top minds, minds who will never undergo diminishing mental ability because of aging. Minds that can remain the top experts indefinitely, securing an indefinite advantage in their field of expertise (As long as these experts keep up with the daily studying of lesser experts in daily hours, instead of resting on their laurels, then they will retain the lead). Understanding that will cause nations previously hostile to each other to suddenly start working together for some long term goal.
And understanding that will unfortunately cause a few bad apples to take revenge on those in position of power and wealth to help rejuvenation research, that they see as having been guilty of not doing their part to quicken the research. Research that could have saved the life of someone the bad apples cared for. If only it succeeded sooner. The day after the cure for cancer is announced on TV, will the news anchor say everyone are celebrating, or will the news anchor say; “Who is to blame for the millions of people that died of cancer while this research went at a snails pace during repeated pleas from the rejuvenation biotechnology community?”….